California state public health officials reported the first death of a child in this year’s flu season on Friday, according to The LA Times, which said the death was in Riverside County. The news comes as a spike in flu cases has hit the Los Angeles area.

“This is a tragic reminder that the flu is a serious illness for people of all ages and kills thousands of Americans each year,” said California Public Health Department head Dr Karen Smith.

Thousands of Californians have been showing up at doctors’ offices and hospitals sick with the flu this month, in what officials say could be a much more severe flu season than the last.

“If you compare this time last year we’re seeing twice as many flu cases,” said Dr Michael Neely, interim chief of infectious diseases at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. “If it keeps going up at this rate and stays up then we will see a lot more cases this year.”